A Frame for London
We made a pair of spectacles that are literally rubbish. Six centuries of rubbish, to be precise.
The first pair of spectacles found in London were recovered from Thames mud near Trig Lane, and date from some time before 1430.
For the next six centuries, spectacles were a fixture in London life, and many of the great developments happened in our vast metropolis, from the first pair of spectacles with sides, to the lorgnette, to the 'supra'.
To celebrate this heritage, we made a pair of spectacles from the very fabric of London's rich history.
Working with 'The Mud God' Steve Brooker, we combed the banks of the Thames, collecting innumerate curiosities and oddities.
Our mudlarked finds included:
- Sections of Bellarmine 'witch pots', which contained fetishistic charms such as urine and fingernails cast into the river to ward of evil spirits.
- A boar's tusk (in Medieval London, wild pigs roamed the streets).
- Oyster shells, the original fast food - the shells were also used as offerings to ward off bad spirits.
- Multiple necks of clay pipes, which became ubiquitous once tobacco was introduced to England in 1565.
- A handful of Tudor hair pins. In Tudor times, long hair was generally put in a bun. Queen Elizabeth herself wore up 2,500 pins. These hair pins gave birth to the phrase 'pin money', an allowance given to a woman for personal expenses by her husband.
- A variety of ceramics, including green glaze, tin glaze, Staffordshire slipware from the 1700s, Medieval shards with thumb prints, and a Tudor leach pot.
- Handmade ships' nails from boats roaming the River Thames, which by the 18th century was one of the world's busiest waterways.
- A horse's tooth, from the vehicle of the day (know as 'flying coaches')
- A WWII bullet and shell.
- A Victorian marble, with the remnants of a flower detail.
- Scraps of Tudor leather.
- Aiguillettes, functional or purely decorative fasteners of silk cord with metal tips popular in the 16th and early 17th centuries.
- A one penny piece.
- Like the original Trig Lane spectacles, plenty of bones.
A Frame for London will be on display at RETROSPECTIVE: London, Spectacles, and Half a Millennia, until April 2019 at the St James's Market Pavilion.